brent johnson digs up another lost treasure, this week from The Decemberists …
To some, they’re a clever band that turns arcane folk music into 21st century rock, with catchy chord progressions and literate lyrics.
To others, they’re a pretentious bunch of bookworms who annoyingly sing songs featuring words like ‘veranda’ and ‘panoply.’
The Decemberists are to music what The Tree Of Life is to movies: Either you love ’em or you hate ’em.
Count me among the fans. Yes, they released an 18-minute suite based on an old Irish epic. Yes, you sometimes need a dictionary to understand what Colin Meloy — the leader of the Portland, Ore., quintet — is singing about. But is that such a harm in these Twitter-fied times? In reality, Meloy writes songs that are both challenging and deceptively simple. His melodies are always hummable and his lyrics roll easily off his tongue — even when they’re are about mythical beasts and revenge-seeking mariners.
My favorite Decemberists track is actually a straight-forward pop tune. It’s called ‘Apology Song’ — the last cut on the band’s debut EP, 5 Songs — and it’s allegedly a true story. A friend had asked Meloy to watch his beloved bicycle while he was away on a trip. But Meloy misplaced it. So he wrote this and sang it into his friend’s answering machine. (Hipster enough for you?)
The words are smart, winking, and chuckle-worthy. And the melody? A little precious, but also infectious. I dare Decemberists haters not to be charmed …